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Bruins would be wise to pass on Kevin Shattenkirk this summer

05.11.17 at 6:59 pm ET
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Kevin Shattenkirk had one goal and six points in 13 playoff games this spring. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Shattenkirk had one goal and six points in 13 playoff games this spring. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Eliminated in round one, the Bruins have become spectators, or potential window-shoppers rather, of the remaining field still skating in the second round and beyond of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And while there was and is shortage of pending free agents about to get paid in this year’s hunt for Lord Stanley, one player in particular stuck out when it came to a potential Boston landing spot, and that was Blues-turned-Capitals puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Linked to the Bruins prior to the deadline deal that sent him from the Blues to the Capitals, you had the feeling a lot (of millions and years) rode on Shattenkirk’s time with the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals. It was in D.C. where he recorded two goals and 14 points in 19 contests before a one-goal, six-point postseason run in Washington.

But if his stint with the Caps, which likely ended by way of Wednesday’s Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Penguins, taught you anything, it’s that the Bruins would be smart to sit out the upcoming Shattenkirk sweepstakes this July.

Obviously, Shattenkirk’s production is incredible. Between the Blues and Caps, Shattenkirk recorded 13 goals and 56 points this season. Those 56 points were the fourth-most among NHL defensemen this season, and only Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and Brent Burns had more. Those three defenders make up this year’s Norris Trophy finalists, by the way. And Shattenkirk’s 189 points in 289 games since the start of the 2013-14 season rank as the 11th-most in the NHL over that span, while his 34 playoff points in 60 postseason tilts stand as the seventh-most among defenders over the last six seasons. He’s been a model of consistency over that span, too, with at least 40 points in the last five full NHL seasons (he had 23 in the lockout-delayed year).

But the Bruins do not need him, and/or specifically his heavy cap hit, against their books next year and for five years after that.

For two years in a row now, the Bruins have invested in experience and playoff production. Matt Beleskey was the first step in that direction, as the Bruins signed him to a five-year, $19 million deal after he scored eight goals and nine points in a 16-game postseason run with the Ducks. The Bruins followed that signing up with a five-year, $30 million contract for David Backes about a month after Backes captained the Blues to their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2001. Neither player has been particularly outstanding in Boston — Beleskey was a complete non-factor for the Bruins this season while Backes was not a strong right-side fit for David Krejci — and not to the point where it’s justified the B’s rush to sign them at their current rates, anyways.

The 28-year-old Shattenkirk’s skill and ceiling is undeniably higher than the physical, roleplayer build of both Beleskey and Backes, sure, but do the Bruins really need to risk adding another albatross of a long-term deal to their books?

 

The number one priority for the Bruins is re-signing restricted free agent David Pastrnak. The good news for the Bruins, of course, is that the player wants to be here, and the Bruins have the money to keep him here. That said, it’s still going to cost some significant coin, likely anywhere from the $5.75 to $6.25 million per year range if I had to guess. That would eat up over half of the B’s projected cap space remaining for next year’s group (the B’s have about $10.4 million at their disposal this summer), and even if a player such as Kevan Miller ($2.5 million) or Adam McQuaid ($2.75 million) is plucked in the expansion draft, it’s still entirely too tight to fit a player such as Shattenkirk into the mix without having to move a piece off your roster somewhere else.

That makes limited sense for a Bruins team whose problems are up front and on the wings and not on the backend, where they already have Torey Krug making over $5 million per season and on the heels of a career-best 51 points during the regular season.

That’s also without mentioning the fact that the Bruins will have to pay both Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy in 2020, and that they already have $46 million committed to that year’s roster and with just eight players signed. The idea of making that number $52 million and with just nine players — and make it an even $58 million and with 10 players if you include Pastrnak in with your hypothetical Shattenkirk addition — would seem like cap suicide, especially if Carlo and McAvoy continue to develop into the surefire top-four studs that they appeared to be in their NHL debuts this past season.

And also, have we entertained the idea that Shattenkirk is not a franchise-altering defenseman? Because he’s not.

If Shattenkirk could not put an otherworldly Capitals team over the top, there’s no sense in trying to convince yourself that he would be the perfect tonic for the Bruins. And of course it goes without saying that the Capitals had problems much bigger than a hot-and-cold Shattenkirk in the postseason, but he was most certainly not part of the solution. You could make the case that his defensive gaffes actually helped accelerate Washington’s annual springtime choke, and he had none bigger than the one in last night’s Game 7 (helped by Alex Ovechkin), which led to the ultimate nail in the coffin with the goal that made it 2-0 Penguins.

That won’t change the demand for a player like Shattenkirk, however, and that means the price won’t change.

It’s expected that he’ll receive a contract anywhere from $6 to maybe even $7 million per season, and that the deal will run for at least six years. That’s a massive commitment that a number of teams previously linked to the New York native — like the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Devils, Flyers, or perhaps even the talent-starved Red Wings — can afford given their championship windows or franchise state, but one that’s entirely too rich for the B’s blood this summer. And the summer after that. And on and on and on.

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